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Bacardi CEO stands by hardline approach

Bacardi’s CEO has admitted that a number of key executives have left the business as a direct result of its recent spate of dramatic structural changes.

Mike Dolan has “taken a sword” and made dramatic change at Bermuda-based drinks group Bacardi

In an exclusive interview with The Spirits Business, Mike Dolan, who was appointed permanent CEO of Bermuda-based drinks group Bacardi earlier this year, spoke about his decision to “take a sword and make dramatic change” to Bacardi’s global marketing and advertising division.

The group revealed plans to streamline its global advertising business in April this year, appointing BBDO Worldwide and OMD Worldwide – both part of Omnicom Group – to handle its entire publicity, media and digital operations.

In order to “match up” with this new agency relationship internally at Bacardi, the company restructured its own marketing division with the creation of two “Centres of Excellence”, one based in North America and another in Europe.

Each centre is headed by a chief marketing officer who reports directly to Dolan on the group’s global brands, and to regional presidents with regards to regional labels.

“In my experience, if you are going to change something, you need to do big change, particularly if the stakes are high,” Dolan told The Spirits Business. “And that’s what we have done, because we are in this to win.

“We’re really are in this to create a powerhouse marketing organisation and this is the way we are going to do it. But it is wrenching for some people.

“That’s not to say we are in any way moving away from managing these brands as global brands, in fact it’s just the opposite. We want to manage these brands in a way that we have a complete link right down to store level.”

Executive departures

After the changes where announced Dmitry “Dima” Ivanov left the group, less than six months after being appointed global CMO.

Dolan claims that Ivanov was offered an opportunity which he “chose not to take” and that he was “sad to see him leave”. Dolan added that the global CMO role had been “redefined” under the new structure and that his is now “effectively” Bacardi’s CMO.

Over the past year, a number of Bacardi executives have left the group, including its global CFO and North America president.

When asked it some executives quit as a direct result of changes made across the company, Dolan said: “Oh for sure. In some cases these were people we were glad to see go, in others we were really sad to see them go.

“They wanted to do something different and it’s a free world, it’s not a slave camp. You should be able to do what you want to do, but you’re not going to do that here.

“There are going to be many people who say that they prefer the old world, working with hundreds of different agencies, and they are going to have to go. I want to make is black and white; you are either on the team, fully committed and committed to great work. Those who aren’t should go and work for an insurance company.”

Dolan added that while the changes may have received a mixed reception across the company, the board and Bacardi family have been “totally supportive”. “Our issue was not the board or the family, it was with management,” the CEO said. “We were our own worst enemy.”

To view our full interview with Mike Dolan, see the September 2015 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.

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